Stuart Jefferson | San Diego,Ca | 05/14/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One disc 44 minutes in length approximately. The sound is clean and open with an overall warmth. It should be noted that track two is twelve minutes in length,not two minutes as listed.
This set was recorded in 1977 in Chicago. It features the three original members of AIR: Henry Threadgill-alto and tenor sax,flute,bass flute,and hubkaphone;Fred Hopkins-bass;and Steve McCall-percussion. This is the group's first U.S. release,although they have recorded and released other albums ("Air Song" was just lately re-released) previously. These three musicians were connected to the AACM,a collective of musicians pushing the boundaries of musical freedom,which helped define their sound. Each of the three had much previous musical experience before coming together to form AIR.
Their music is an amalgam of blues,jazz,African rhythms,and whatever else they feel like throwing into the mix at the time. This music is dense yet lightly free-flowing and stands as an example of what three intelligent musicians are capable of. The use of hubcaps (listen to "G.v.E.") as a percussion device gives this music it's African feel,and is very vibrant and exciting.
Threadgill's flute work is delicate and flows over the rhythm that's set down by the other group members to great effect. Likewise his sax sound,which is firmly in the jazz idiom,yet is something else too. Hopkins' bass work is both a lead instrument and lays down the foundation for other members of the group to play off of,and is both intelligent and human in it's sound. The percussion of McCall fills in a lot of holes in this trio,and is expressive while holding everything together.
These tracks are a combination of thoughtful arrangements and at-the-moment improvisation. This style of music is extremely difficult to play successfully,which they do over and over again. It's interesting that during a solo,the other players are not relegated to a subordinate position-rather than merely supporting someone else,the three musicians intertwine their respective sounds together,while simultaneously supporting the soloist. This is why this music sounds so passionate and intelligently played.
The accompanying booklet gives a short synopsis of the group and then describes the music in this set in some detail. However,in the end,listening to this music is the best way to understanding what this music is all about.
For listeners familiar with AIR,this is more fine music from the group. For those not familiar with AIR/"free" jazz,this music won't bite to hard. Give it a chance (or several) and you will hear why this group is so important. It's a shame that these three musicians are now unable (Hopkins passed away) to continue to create this music into the future. As time marches on,more and more important musicians are passing away. The three original people had that certain"something",undefinable,yet listeners knew it when they heard it. Get this release before it,too,slips away."